Anti-Congestion Pricing Group Suggests Alternatives

While waiting for Walter McCaffrey to send over an official version (he sent it -- download it here), we managed to get a hold of a bootleg copy of the executive summary of the Committee to Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free's new report. Willie Neuman has a write-up of the report in the Times today as well.

The Committee's report aims to offer up alternatives to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, many of which are ideas familiar and appealing to regular readers of Streetsblog. The executive summary itemizes eight specific traffic mitigation ideas and calculates that, together, these could reduce VMT, or vehicle miles traveled, between 7.6 and 11.5 percent south of 86th Street (table above).

New York City's $354.5 million federal grant is dependent on a plan that reduces VMT by at least 6.3 percent. The grant, however, is also dependent on the City implementing some form of congestion pricing technology as a part of that plan, so it's not at all clear if any of the suggestions above would allow the city to keep that money.

Hugh O'Neill, the president of Appleseed, the economics consulting firm which wrote the report, acknowledges that his numbers are soft. Neuman reports:

Altogether, the study says, such measures could reduce traffic volume by 7 to 11 percent. Mr. O'Neill said, however, that the estimate was very rough.

"I would fully acknowledge that those numbers are speculative and would need to be subject to further analysis," he said. "I think what the numbers legitimately show is that there are real options, real world alternatives, many of which are much simpler to implement than what the city has proposed."

The report does not include an overall estimate for the cost of putting its proposals in place, but it says it would cost far less than the mayor's congestion pricing plan.

In addition to a "speculative" analysis, the report offers no price tag for its proposed changes. Some ideas, like increasing the cost of on-street parking and reforming the city's government employee parking abuse problem, are almost certainly net revenue earners, though come with their own set of costs and political challenges. Other suggestions have a universally appealing but vaguely expensive ring to them; for example, this one: "Major transit improvements."

In addition to the eight congestion pricing alternatives listed in the table above, the executive summary offers these as well:

Options that reduce VMT, congestion or both (2008-2009)

  • Reducing congestion caused by black cars and non-yellow for hire vehicles.
  • More effectively regulating the use of streets for construction projects.
  • Modernizing traffic signal systems.
  • Implementing 511 (A system to notify drivers of real time traffic conditions).

Options for reducing congestion beyond 2010

  • Bus Rapid Transit.
  • Lower Manhattan bus depot.
  • Incentives for off-peak delivery.
  • Increased use of water transportation for movement of freight.
  • Expanding the Lower Manhattan traffic management program to Midtown.
  • Improving the distribution of information to motorists by state of the art technology.
  • Encouraging greater use of bicycle transportation.